Gulf Coast Network Receives $13.6M for Cancer Clinical Trials Involving Minority & Underserved Populations

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently awarded $13.6 million to combine and expand two networks working to bring minority and underserved cancer patients in Louisiana and Mississippi into research studies. The new Gulf South Minority/Underserved Clinical Trials Network seeks to continue increasing the numbers of new cancer patients participating in clinical trials.

Led by Dr. Augusto Ochoa, Director of the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health New Orleans, he declared “I think patients are interested in and eager to participate, especially in today’s world, where they study and explore the internet what are the opportunities for treatment of their disease. Nationwide fewer than 5% of all new cancer patients participate in clinical trials yet within the Gulf network already outperforms this benchmark.

What is the Gulf Network

This network merges the community oncology research program run by Ochsner Cancer Center into one at LSU Health New Orleans, which already included cancer centers at LSU Health Shreveport and the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Baton Rouge.

How many Sites are in the Gulf Network?

The number of participating sites has increased from 22 to 42. Most of the sites are located around 10 cities in Louisiana, but Hattiesburg and Gulfport, Mississippi are also involved. Louisiana is nearly all covered. Locations include Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Covington, Houma, Lake Charles, Metairie, Monroe, New Orleans, Shreveport, and Slidell. The LSU network has partnered in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Ochsner brought in Hattiesburg. A Mary Bird Perkins site in Natchez, Mississippi will become part of the network.

Major Health Providers to Participate

In addition, the major regional health providers will also participate in the network—including Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, Women’s Hospital in Baton Rouge and the Christus Health community sites.

Regional Studies

With 250,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Louisiana alone that more participation in research is coming is a good thing. Ochsner’s network enrolled nearly 200 patients into clinical studies last year. LSU’s network, expected to bring 200 patients into such studies, enrolled more than 1,300. Dr. Ochoa reports that about 500 to 600 participants have joined a national study to compare standard mammography and 3”-D” mammography, also called tomosynthesis.


Ochoa notes that about half the women enrolled thorough the network are African American, and half are white. The NCI considers Ochoa’s network of strategic importance due to their ability to increase diversity in cancer research.

Moving Forward

NCI seeks to expand the program for studies about cancer prevention and early detection not to mention programs to reduce negative impacts of cancer treatment and expanding the role of survivorship.

Cancer Alley

Ochoa’s network is important given the historical precedence of cancer int his region of the United States. Known as Cancer Alley, it represents the area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, in the River Parishes of Louisiana. These parishes contain numerous industrial plants heavily influenced by petrol/chemical processing. Locations in this area with clusters of cancer patients have been covered extensively by the news media. The region’s demographics reveal a numbers of working to working poor populations as well as large African American populations.

Key Contact

Dr. Augusto Ochoa, director of the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health New Orleans, email: [email protected]

Call to Action: Do you live in East Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi and have a loved one diagnosed with cancer? It makes sense to explore this important network. Are you a CRO or sponsor seeking to work with this network—we include Dr. Ochoa’s contact information.